Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Bandits in Late Medieval Europe Reply to topic
This is a standard topic Go to page 1, 2  Next 
Author Message
Dashiell Harrison




Location: California
Joined: 14 Jun 2014

Posts: 45

PostPosted: Thu 11 Feb, 2021 5:52 pm    Post subject: Bandits in Late Medieval Europe         Reply with quote

Hi All,

The presence of bandits on the roads is an oft-sighted reason for the popularity of swords among civilian travelers in Late Medieval Europe. With that in mind, I'm curious if we have much in the way of evidence for how a bandit attack on a Late Medieval road might actually have played out. I know Cellini discussed surviving one in the 16th century, but I'm curious if we have any other accounts of what a fight between travelers and bandits might have looked like.

(Full disclosure: like approximately 37% of the HEMA community I'm in the process of writing a historical novel and I'm trying to figure out how to write something a little more realistic than your standard D&D-esque bandit encounter.)

Cheers!
Dashiell
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,251

PostPosted: Thu 11 Feb, 2021 7:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is a brief description of an encounter with bandits, from the Travelogue of Leo of Rozmital, circa 1460

"Item, we then rode through the country of Hohenlohe. Here in two places certain men set upon my lord with intent to overthrow him. But as everyone, lord, nobleman and page carried his crossbow on his saddle they came to the conclusion that we were too strong for them."

This was 40 men though, of whom about half were fighting men. And all carrying crossbows.

This is a more detailed incident from the 16th Century autobiography of Bartholmew Sastrow the burgomeister of Stralsund. He's describing an incident that happened to his brother in Mecklenburg in the early 16th century.

"The brigands came up with them and entered into conversation. Suddenly one of them snatched the loaded pistol Lagesbusch was carrying at his saddle-bow - the fashion of carrying two had not come in - fire it at Lepper, who was galloping back to the carriage, killing him there and then, while Lagesbusch set spurs to his horse in time to warn Sonnenberg, who hid himself in the brushwood. My brother, armed with a pole, and standing with his back against the carriage to prevent an attack from behind, offered a stout and not unsuccessful resistance. He managed to wound in the thigh an assailant who, carried away by his horse, bit the dust further up the road.

But another miscreant, charging furiously, sliced away a piece of my brother's skull as big as a crown (the fragment of bone that adhered to the skin was the size of a ducat), and at the same time dealt him a deep gash at the throat. As a matter of course, my brother lost consciousness; nay, was left for dead while the bandits sacked the carriage, caught the horse of their wounded comrade, but seeing that he could not be transported, abandoned him and decamped with their spoil. They, however , did not take the carriage team [horses]. In a little while Sonnenberg emerged from his hiding-place, and with the aid of the driver, hauled my brother into the carriage. The woman bandaged his head and kept it on her knees. Lepper's body was placed between the legs of the wounded young man, and in that condition they reached Ribbenitz, where the surgeon closed the gash in the neck by means of pins."


Sastrow says these robbers were nobles, as was often the case with 'banditry' - it was often really Raubritter who from their own perspective were honest knights pursuing a legitimate feud.

Very complex subject in other words.

I have a few more incidents of violence from Sastrow and from Cellini's autobiography which you can read here in an article I did for the Acta a few years ago.

Jean

System D'Armes HEMA in New Orleans

Books and games on Medieval Europe Codex Integrum

Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic Now available in print
View user's profile Send private message
Dashiell Harrison




Location: California
Joined: 14 Jun 2014

Posts: 45

PostPosted: Thu 11 Feb, 2021 7:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Jean,

Thanks for commenting! As it happens I am a great admirer of your work and read your article when it came out. Fascinating stuff!

I don't suppose you have any recommendations of where one might look for other accounts of bandit encounters?

-Dashiell
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 3,544

PostPosted: Thu 11 Feb, 2021 10:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Keep in mind that the word "brigand" in the 16th century meant "soldier", not "bandit". Though sometimes it was difficult to tell the difference.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
View user's profile Send private message
Paul Hansen




Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 17 Mar 2005
Likes: 5 pages

Posts: 828

PostPosted: Fri 12 Feb, 2021 4:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Henri Chandler wrote:

it was often really Raubritter who from their own perspective were honest knights pursuing a legitimate feud.


Heh, yeah, right... Laughing Out Loud
They maybe tried to spin it that way but I doubt they even believed it themselves.

The Likedeelers / Victual Brothers may appear a bit more sympathetic but in the end they were probably more pirate than freedom fighter, ie. more in it for themselves rather than for the poor oppressed and hungry masses.
View user's profile Send private message
T. Kew




Location: London, UK
Joined: 21 Apr 2012

Posts: 214

PostPosted: Fri 12 Feb, 2021 4:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Paul Hansen wrote:

Heh, yeah, right... :lol:
They maybe tried to spin it that way but I doubt they even believed it themselves.


Zmora's The Feud in Early Modern Germany is a great look at this from the perspective of those feuding knights. I think it would be pretty hasty to write it off as just spin - the overall social & legal framework around these is super different to any modern models, which can lead us to quite different interpretations of the past.

HEMA fencer and coach, New Cross Historical Fencing
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,251

PostPosted: Fri 12 Feb, 2021 7:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

T. Kew wrote:
Paul Hansen wrote:

Heh, yeah, right... Laughing Out Loud
They maybe tried to spin it that way but I doubt they even believed it themselves.


Zmora's The Feud in Early Modern Germany is a great look at this from the perspective of those feuding knights. I think it would be pretty hasty to write it off as just spin - the overall social & legal framework around these is super different to any modern models, which can lead us to quite different interpretations of the past.


Yes, I agree with T. here, there seems to be a full gamut of knights who were really professional thieves (as Sastrow bitterly complains about the men who injured his brother) to fairly virtuous knights, and others, who were pursuing what they genuinely saw as legitimate grievances - sometimes against much more powerful rivals, to people who may have started out that way and then gone completely rogue.

I do recommend the Zmora book. Another really good resource for some insight into robber knights can be found here in this article, which deals with letters by Franconian knights who were trying to determine if they had gotten themselves in Nurmberg's "Feud book"

https://ugp.rug.nl/virtus/article/view/31844/0

Nuremberg, like most of the larger towns in Central or Northern Europe, took many active steps to keep the roads safe and suppress destructive feuding and banditry. This included using their militia to go on punitive raids, and also hiring paramilitary forces (which the nobles contemptuously called hetzrüden 'stag hounds'), and effectively hit-men, to capture and sometimes kill knights who had made it into their book. The fencing master Hans Talhoffer, while still a youth, got himself in a nasty predicament after he and some other men in the employ of a Nuremberg councilor (possibly accidentally) killed just such a knight, who thought he was righteously enforcing an embargo of Venice which had been declared by the Emperor, when he and his brother helped capture a caravan of very expensive goods belonging to Nuremberg. Jens Peter Kleinau wrote a couple of great articles about this which you can find on his site, he has the original documents.

The "robber knights" often walked a fine line, typically imposing tolls and sometimes capturing or kidnapping for ransom, but seldom killing or maiming their victims - those who did ended up in the "Feud books" of various towns and might end up having their castle destroyed in a raid.

This, by the way, is the Feud book of Nuremberg for 1381-523. You can see the family coat of arms of "Götz" von Berlichingen, the infamous Conrad Schott von Schottenstein (the knight in Durers "Knight, Death and the Devil", and a major enemy of Nuremberg) and Eppelein von Gailingen, the guy who famously escaped the gallows in Nuremberg castle by leaping away from the gibbet on his horse when they let him sit on it "one last time". Quite colorful characters.

http://dlib.gnm.de/item/Hs22547/html

Of course there were also regular common bandits, sometimes associated with robber knights, sometimes not, and brigands which often meant either military or paramilitary forces sometimes associated with sinister networks of slave traders (working for the Tatars or the Ottomans, particularly in Eastern and East-Central Europe) or with unemployed mercenary bands notably during and after the 100 Years War in the West and down in Italy.

One thing worth noting is that the towns and in some cases, princes, took far more serious punitive measures in certain contexts than in others. The major trading roads like the Via Regia and Via Imperia, the Amber road, the various salt roads and royal roads, and any road network that was part of a major pilgrimage route or which was connected to the Silk Road, tended to be vigurously protected and malefactors aggressively punished, whereas in other areas - frontier zones, remote wilderness, back roads, it was much more "open season".

This was part of the Landfrieden and equivalent, the regional diets and associated laws worked out between towns, princes, prelates and gentry, which typically stipulated "safe" zones on these major commercial trading roads and around churches and mills and so on, and forbade 'scorched earth' policies during feuds. They had their own magistrates ('jusitce of the peace of the roads' - a legal remnant of which seems to now only be in charge of marriages in the US - and they had their little armies of Hetzrüden and the like.

The towns often did not appreciate the arguments made by the knights that they were pursuing lawsuits, but the knights and lower ranking nobles (barons and baronets etc.) often felt they had no other recourse, as if you were on the outs with the faction of the regional prince, his court would not rule in your favor. Feuding was a way of putting extra (para)military pressure on those who had wronged you or owed you money.

System D'Armes HEMA in New Orleans

Books and games on Medieval Europe Codex Integrum

Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic Now available in print
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,251

PostPosted: Fri 12 Feb, 2021 7:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dashiell Harrison wrote:
Hi Jean,

Thanks for commenting! As it happens I am a great admirer of your work and read your article when it came out. Fascinating stuff!

I don't suppose you have any recommendations of where one might look for other accounts of bandit encounters?

-Dashiell


Ah, thanks - I was wondering if your reference to Cellini may have been about my article.

For resources on this kind of thing, it depends what kind of data specifically you are looking for, but I think town and abbey chronicles are really good, and the best single source like that I can think of in English is probably "The Chronicles of Three Free Cities" compiled in 1914 by an English historian named Wilson King, who I believe was trying (in vain) to help forestall WW I by providing some interesting insights into German culture.

https://www.amazon.com/Chronicles-Three-Free-Cities-Hamburg/dp/036427168X

If you can find a copy of Jan Dlugosz "Annales" that is a similar kind of source, but even better, beautifully written and does dip into some personal details, however the (massive) book is very expensive.

For a more personal, close to the ground look at this kind of thing you basically have to look for letters and personal accounts, and autobigoraphies like the ones I used in that Acta article. I mentioned one of these which is a great (and really weird) source which has the benefit of being corroborated by many princely court records as they visited kings and princes all over Europe for two years - the dual accounts of the Travels of Leo of Rozmital, if you can find a copy of that.

Anyway, not a complete survey here but those three would certainly be a good start. You can also find a lot of resources in the bibliography in my Baltic book if you have that.

J

System D'Armes HEMA in New Orleans

Books and games on Medieval Europe Codex Integrum

Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic Now available in print
View user's profile Send private message
Sean Manning




Location: Austria
Joined: 23 Mar 2008

Posts: 602

PostPosted: Fri 12 Feb, 2021 9:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd loook for books with titles like "crime and violence in medieval Europe: a sourcebook" (hypothetical title) or "travel in the middle ages." Trevor Dean has a book on "Crime in Medieval Europe 1200-1550."

Paul Hansen wrote:

They maybe tried to spin it that way but I doubt they even believed it themselves.

Medieval people liked to tell a very old story which St. Augustine used in one of his writings. Alexander the Great is resting on campaign when his men bring him a pirate or robber. "What should I do with you?" he asks. "Honour me like a king" the strong man says. "Why?" "Because you despoil the world with great fleets and mighty armies, but I do it with just a band of companions. So if I am a criminal, what are you?"

www.bookandsword.com
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,251

PostPosted: Fri 12 Feb, 2021 1:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would recommend to try to narrow your focus on specific regions or places, and specific time periods. Say within 1000 km and 100 years at least.

One of the reasons it's so difficult to make sense of Medieval Europe is that there are so many books and documentaries (etc.) which try to look at it (or some aspect of it like 'knights', 'travel' or 'crime and violence') but do so across 4,000 km and 7 or 8 centuries of time. You can't actually make sense of anything when bouncing around between 13th century France, 16th Century Hungary, 11th Century Finland and (inevitably) several different periods in England.

Imagine if you did a history of the modern era while more or less randomly pulling facts from Victorian England, the Soviet Union during WW2, and 21st Century San Francisco. You get a similar mish-mash as you do with a lot of 'medievalist' books, especially those from the 20th century. You'll have movies with Civil War soldiers carrying M-16s and flying helicopters...

System D'Armes HEMA in New Orleans

Books and games on Medieval Europe Codex Integrum

Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic Now available in print
View user's profile Send private message
Dashiell Harrison




Location: California
Joined: 14 Jun 2014

Posts: 45

PostPosted: Fri 12 Feb, 2021 2:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Henri Chandler wrote:
I would recommend to try to narrow your focus on specific regions or places, and specific time periods. Say within 1000 km and 100 years at least.

One of the reasons it's so difficult to make sense of Medieval Europe is that there are so many books and documentaries (etc.) which try to look at it (or some aspect of it like 'knights', 'travel' or 'crime and violence') but do so across 4,000 km and 7 or 8 centuries of time. You can't actually make sense of anything when bouncing around between 13th century France, 16th Century Hungary, 11th Century Finland and (inevitably) several different periods in England.

Imagine if you did a history of the modern era while more or less randomly pulling facts from Victorian England, the Soviet Union during WW2, and 21st Century San Francisco. You get a similar mish-mash as you do with a lot of 'medievalist' books, especially those from the 20th century. You'll have movies with Civil War soldiers carrying M-16s and flying helicopters...


That's always a good point!

Specifically I'm interested in what a bandit attack on a smallish party containing a man-at-arms, his squire, and a handful of other armed and unarmed civilian travelers in the Brenner Pass in June 1386 would have looked like. However, I figured that, unlike, say the American Civil War, sources are thin enough on the ground that I'd probably have to look at what was available from the whole of the Late Medieval period and extrapolate what made the most sense for the particular chapter I'm working on. Happy
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,251

PostPosted: Fri 12 Feb, 2021 3:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well I don't have anything quite that specific on hand haha, but I bet you can find something real close because there are so many of those Swiss chronicles, plus Austrian and Italian ones, I'm sure one of the above would have some kind of interesting story about the Brenner pass in the late 14th Century. Unfortunately, so far as I'm aware most of them are untranslated, but if you go find one of them online and go through the entries you can definitely find that specific year and seeing as bandits were a near constant problem, I bet you could find at least a reference to such an incident.

In other words, it's not so much so much that sources are thin as you would need to go through a bit of effort to find and make use of them. But on the plus side, if you successfully transcribed and translated a few pages and found an interesting incident of banditry you could probably write an academic article on the side...

Here is one of the Diebold Schiling Chronicles - good luck and let me know what you find!

https://www.e-codices.unifr.ch/en/list/one/bbb/Mss-hh-I0001

System D'Armes HEMA in New Orleans

Books and games on Medieval Europe Codex Integrum

Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic Now available in print
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,251

PostPosted: Sun 14 Feb, 2021 10:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Since you are working on a novel, here are three somewhat overlooked literary sources you might want to look at -

Louis L"Amours The Walking Drum, an earlier period and a bit further north, but in the ballpark of your subject and surprisingly good.

Mika Waltari's "The Adventurer" - a picaresque novel set in Central Europe (mostly) in the 16th Century, but this guy really understood the late medieval mindset, both the scholar's and commoners point of view.

Finally Tim Powers "Drawing of the Dark" is quite interesting. Also in the 16th Century, in the HRE, but this guy too does a good job getting into the mindset and IIRC some of the action does take place in the Brenner Pass. Plus I think Marozzo is in it..? Or Fiore? I forget which fencing master. But one of them.

System D'Armes HEMA in New Orleans

Books and games on Medieval Europe Codex Integrum

Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic Now available in print
View user's profile Send private message
Paul Hansen




Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 17 Mar 2005
Likes: 5 pages

Posts: 828

PostPosted: Sun 14 Feb, 2021 11:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

T. Kew wrote:
Paul Hansen wrote:

Heh, yeah, right... Laughing Out Loud
They maybe tried to spin it that way but I doubt they even believed it themselves.


Zmora's The Feud in Early Modern Germany is a great look at this from the perspective of those feuding knights. I think it would be pretty hasty to write it off as just spin - the overall social & legal framework around these is super different to any modern models, which can lead us to quite different interpretations of the past.


Well, to have a feud, you must also have a cause.

Feuding was very common in e.g. late medieval Frisia, but feuds were between people (who often involved their extended families, clans and so forth). So not a direct threat to an unsuspecting traveller (unless belonging to a feuding party), and also (in theory) not about financial gains but about honour.

The opening post, however, is not about feuding knights (or farmers) but about bandits preying on travellers on the road. The article about feuding nobles, their motives and their possible status as Raubritter is interesting but it's not an excuse, at least from the point of view of the cities.
View user's profile Send private message
T. Kew




Location: London, UK
Joined: 21 Apr 2012

Posts: 214

PostPosted: Sun 14 Feb, 2021 1:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Paul Hansen wrote:
Well, to have a feud, you must also have a cause.

Feuding was very common in e.g. late medieval Frisia, but feuds were between people (who often involved their extended families, clans and so forth). So not a direct threat to an unsuspecting traveller (unless belonging to a feuding party), and also (in theory) not about financial gains but about honour.

The opening post, however, is not about feuding knights (or farmers) but about bandits preying on travellers on the road. The article about feuding nobles, their motives and their possible status as Raubritter is interesting but it's not an excuse, at least from the point of view of the cities.


What sort of behaviour is justified as part of a feud varies by time and place. Based on the models of feuding that Zmora lays out for 15th century Germany, a knight with a feud against a city would consider it justified to prey on that city's merchants and traders. There is a lot more complexity going on here than just "knights attacking people on roads = bad", at least from the legal and social positions of the time. A fun primary source for how this can play out is the autobiography of Götz von Berlichingen, although it hasn't been published in English translation.

HEMA fencer and coach, New Cross Historical Fencing
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,251

PostPosted: Sun 14 Feb, 2021 2:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Paul Hansen wrote:
T. Kew wrote:
Paul Hansen wrote:

Heh, yeah, right... Laughing Out Loud
They maybe tried to spin it that way but I doubt they even believed it themselves.


Zmora's The Feud in Early Modern Germany is a great look at this from the perspective of those feuding knights. I think it would be pretty hasty to write it off as just spin - the overall social & legal framework around these is super different to any modern models, which can lead us to quite different interpretations of the past.


Well, to have a feud, you must also have a cause.

Feuding was very common in e.g. late medieval Frisia, but feuds were between people (who often involved their extended families, clans and so forth). So not a direct threat to an unsuspecting traveller (unless belonging to a feuding party), and also (in theory) not about financial gains but about honour.

The opening post, however, is not about feuding knights (or farmers) but about bandits preying on travelers on the road. The article about feuding nobles, their motives and their possible status as Raubritter is interesting but it's not an excuse, at least from the point of view of the cities.


I recommend you read the Zmora book as he covers the basics of this pretty well. Knights throughout Central Europe (including in and around Frisia by the way) in the 14th and 15th Centuries (especially) but also both before and after that, routinely decided that feuds did extend to uninvolved third parties. They might also declare a feud on a city or an entire county or bishopric and thereby give themselves the right to 'tax', rob or kidnap travelers either heading to or coming from the city they had a feud with, or even just passing through it.

Cities and often princes disagreed with this policy which led to further friction.

This was the origin of the so-called "Raubritter" or robber knight. From their own perspective most were pursuing what they saw as legal feuds. There are hundreds of examples of this including by some of the knights that I already mentioned by name.

System D'Armes HEMA in New Orleans

Books and games on Medieval Europe Codex Integrum

Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic Now available in print
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,251

PostPosted: Sun 14 Feb, 2021 2:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The motivation for the feuds was indeed also quite often directly about money - typically loans that hadn't been repaid.
System D'Armes HEMA in New Orleans

Books and games on Medieval Europe Codex Integrum

Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic Now available in print
View user's profile Send private message
Paul Hansen




Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 17 Mar 2005
Likes: 5 pages

Posts: 828

PostPosted: Mon 15 Feb, 2021 2:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

T. Kew wrote:
There is a lot more complexity going on here than just "knights attacking people on roads = bad", at least from the legal and social positions of the time.


That does seem to have been the position of the Nuremberg Council, according to the Virtus' article:

Quote:
As a consequence, towns such as Nuremberg faced a continuous and omnipresent threat from many feuds over which the town council could hardly gain an overview, let alone exert any control. This was in addition to the threat posed by nobles who de- clared feuds against the town itself, and could thus be combatted directly. The threat from general rural insecurity demanded a different response, and the town set out its position in repeated letters to feuding nobles admonishing them to make their attacks ‘where one ought to strike one’s enemies’. Practically speaking, this meant that violent acts should be carried out away from the main highways which carried Nuremberg’s vital long-distance trade. Nuremberg declared all violence which it could not tolerate to be outside the laws of feuding and thus criminal and punish-able. But it was not sufficient simply to declare roads and merchants off limits for
feuding; more proactive measures had to be taken.


And:

Quote:
Nuremberg possessed an imperial privilege dating from 1320 which empowered its forces to capture
schädliche Leute beyond the walls and bring them back to the town for punishment; this was confirmed by Emperor Sigismund at his coronation in Rome in 1433 and extended by Frederick III shortly after his accession in 1440 to the effect that Nuremberg could proceed as it saw fit against all those who had harmed its citizens. Other towns throughout the German-speaking Empire obtained similar privileges during the late Middle Ages, but were simultaneously aware that these documents could only ever form part of the constant effort required to assert their right to patrol the countryside. Nuremberg therefore repeatedly stated that it was not only permitted to arrest robbers, but was positively obliged to do so for the sake of the Empire, justice, and the common good


Anyway, regardless of whatever reasons those nobles may have had, it was clearly not in the interest of the towns let alone the farmers. And it seems that, at least on paper, the Emperor sided with the towns on this matter.
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,251

PostPosted: Mon 15 Feb, 2021 6:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That depended on the specific town an the particular Emperor. Often they played both sides against the middle, and few Emperors had the power to enforce their rules anyway. For example Frederick III who reigned for half of the 15th Century (1452-1493) barely had control of his own corner of Austria let alone the entire HRE. His predecessor Sigismund is the one who lost control of Bohemia. He tended to play both sides in such conflicts, such as was the case during the incident with Talhoffer. Maximillian made a concerted effort to enforce a 'universal peace' but with decidedly mixed results. The Swabian league - at the instigation of Nuremberg, burned 23 castles of Robber knights during the Franconian War in 1523 but even that didn't end the pillaging by robber knights (and they were unable to catch their main target).

The article in question shows how the towns attempted to enforce their Landfrieden or 'peace of the roads' with mixed success in Franconia. In certain other local areas they achieved near complete success (such as in Upper Lusatia under the Lusatian League) but that was a decidedly local control. Several regions of the HRE and neighboring districts, including Mecklenberg, Pomerania, Silesia and Thuringia remained plagued by robber knights well into the Early Modern period. It didn't really end until the Peace of Westphalia after the 30 Years War.

System D'Armes HEMA in New Orleans

Books and games on Medieval Europe Codex Integrum

Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic Now available in print
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,251

PostPosted: Mon 15 Feb, 2021 7:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The real issue with medieval feuding is that you had several different concepts of law and order, and rights, according to the different estates. The low ranking nobility and ministeriales (who made up a lot of the robber knights) had one version of what they thought justice was, the middling nobility another, and the princes quite another entirely (more or less 'L'etat, c'est mois'). The larger towns and Free Cities had their own perspective which was partly at odds with the whole feudal system - and in some towns they routinely referred to all nobles as habitual liars and thieves in period documents. And the Church had it's own ideas, which didn't even necessarily synch up internally as there were various factions within and between the different Orders and prelates of the Church. The Dominicans hated the Franciscans and condemned their interpretations of law, one Pope declared the previous Pope an anti-Christ and vice versa. And the Universities kept stirring the pot by coming out with new ideas and variations on previous notions of law, justice, ethics, and morality. And the peasants also had their own concepts - the split between their traditional values, Luthers ideas of reform, and the emerging laws (also called 'reforms') pushed by the lawyers of the princes triggered the Peasant War of 1525.

Sometimes each estate could recognize the reality that their view wasn't the only view and they had to compromise with the others. The Germans called this the rezeß, i.e. 'backing down', as in the First Rezeß of Hamburg in 1410. The Poles and Czechs were also fairly quick to reach such compromises, as were the Swiss, who made it the basis of their Confederacy and nation. However, before these compromises were reached, and sometimes they never were, there was typically an extended period of violence as one estate attempted to impose their will over another. And this could be exascerbated by religious tensions such as during the Hussite Wars in the 1420s-1480s and later of course in the religious wars after the Reformation and Counter-Reformation in the 16th Century, culminating in the terrible 30 Years War of the 17th.

On a local level sometimes cynical third parties would instigate trouble. Much of the violence going on between the lower nobility and Nuremberg for example was instigated by the Margraves of Brandenburg, who had previously controlled a lucrative burgravate within Nuremberg that the citizens seized control of, and they wanted it back. This went on for half of the 15th Century and well into the 16th. The Ottomans also did their best to instigate similar factional disputes within Hungary and Austria, as a prelude to invasion.

System D'Armes HEMA in New Orleans

Books and games on Medieval Europe Codex Integrum

Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic Now available in print
View user's profile Send private message


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Bandits in Late Medieval Europe
Page 1 of 2 Reply to topic
Go to page 1, 2  Next All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2021 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum